Contemporary sculptor Irma Gruenholz makes scenes that seem to oscillate between the most ordinary moments and the magical, each scene populated by finely rendered hybrid creatures. The artist’s carefully constructed photographs feature figures and the narratives within are meant to evoke a sense of intimacy, appearing tantalizingly open-ended. Irma intends to –
“involve the viewer, to provoke questions about the characters as well as wonder about what has happened or what is going to happen.”
Indeed, a sense of mystery pervades each photograph, and one feels drawn in by the unexpected details found on the sculptures, subtly scaled legs, natural colors and magical creatures, immersed in a story that is not entirely readable, but as such is absolutely intriguing. The sense of breathing, dreaming and beating hearts mean each picture possesses a strange and beautiful charm…….
Irma’s images and compositions arise from the artist’s imagination and remind one of book illustrations overall. In fact, Irma began her training in graphic design which has acted as a basis for her sculptural work, allowing the pieces to have an illustrative sensibility. As a child she spent hours playing with clay, building houses of paper and making her own dolls. The sculptures made in her studio are like creatures from dreams, a harmony with nature and transformation pervades…..
Much of the artist’s work reminds one of a myth or an enigmatic folktale and she notes that some of her inspiration draws upon time spent in the forest where she collects natural elements and objects. Irma’s process begins with an illustration evolving into a three-dimensional piece as a model of foam board and plasticine so she can study and adjust the dimensions, composition and framing.
The main characters are made of clay or plasticine and the backgrounds are made of cardboard, plaster or painter wood. Finally, Irma takes a photograph, carefully calculating the lighting and framing. While many of the sculptural projects are often meant to illustrate a concept or story, she is now venturing more and more into making stand-alone sculptures. Each portrait has a painterly intimacy, almost like watercolor – as if from a nineteenth century fairytale book, the blue or pink tinged skin, the subtle tones of green and even mottled surface have a graceful sensitivity and eerie strangeness as well.
Irma’s illustration for Ivo Rosati’s Il Ballerino del Silenzio (Published by Zoolibri) is one of the artist’s favorite projects. She describes it as a story “about a mysterious character who takes advantage of the silence and darkness of the night to dance, invisible to everyone. The tale takes place at night, so I had to create a kind of nocturnal night lighting without total darkness. I was captivated by the poetry of the story and I found it a very attractive because the text has a very open interpretation.”
Cinematic, illustrative and intriguing, Irma’s work has a distinctive style and her creatures come from a world of imagined fairy tales, evoking a sense of story, metaphor and sentimentality, existing somewhere between folktale and surrealism. This is the stuff of dreams, the juxtaposition of impossible places, animals and people coming together in tales of non linear fantasy.